Eamonn Butler is director of the Adam Smith Institute. He is the author of books on the pioneering economists Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Adam Smith, and co-author of Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls and books on intelligence testing. He has degrees in economics, philosophy and psychology, gaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1978.
The Newspaper Society, representing a large wodge of UK newspapers, have rejected the Leveson Report plans to regulate them and are publishing their own proposals for self-regulation - backed by a Royal Charter. All power to them.
Easter in Britain is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with garden centres and DIY stores in particular full of people stimulated by the spring weather – well, when we are not having an Arctic spell – to bring a bit of a new look into their homes and gardens.
But larger stores, like those same garden centres and DIY stores, will be able to open only six hours on Easter Sunday – like every Sunday. Convenience stores can stay open longer, but retail premises larger than 280 square metres are allowed only six hours.
Members of the European Parliament on the Economic Affairs Committee have agreed to introduce legislation to extend the bonus cap on bankers to fund managers as well. This is an indication of the envy, ignorance and economic illiteracy that drives much European policy.
I’ve been working recently on the regulation of banks, insurers and financial advisers. I’ve concluded that these industries are over-regulated, and regulated in the wrong way – which causes more problems than it solves.
There is a strong case for financial services regulation. With many products you can see plainly what you are buying. But buy a pension or an insurance policy and you don’t know if you’ve been sold a pup until it’s time for it to pay out.
The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, headed by Andrew Tyrie, wants to electrify the proposed ring fence between retail and investment banking. Regulators should be able to force a complete split of retail and investment banking operations if a bank tries to resist the ring-fencing rules, it says.
We need smaller banks and more competition in banking, yes. But this proposal is a bad idea.
This is a waste of breath, because there is no Plan B and no Plan A+ (and therefore no prospects of the Conservatives being part of the next UK government), but here goes.
The policy of letting public spending drift slowly upwards, hoping it will be outpaced by growth, is shot. There is no growth. Our trading customers (mainly US and EU) are floundering, and domestic investors, businesses and customers are in lock-down, waiting to see what happens.
The political crisis in Italy will just deepen the eurozone's resolve to move faster and deeper into real economic and banking union. With no clear winner emerging, a large vote against austerity measures, and the prospect of another election in weeks, markets already have the jitters. The European Central Bank (ECB) will find itself, inevitably, being drawn in to try to calm them.
Moody's downgrade of UK government bonds from AAA to AA1 status isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it is likely raise long-term (15 to 20-year) borrowing costs slightly, and that will affect the government's finances, though it won't affect ordinary households much, as they generally borrow on much shorter terms. But is it a dire comment on the UK government's economic policy?
Economists are finding it hard to understand why Britain's labour market is so buoyant. At a time when output seems resolutely flat, the number of people in work is growing and the number of people unemployed is falling. This week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in the last quarter of 2012, a record number of people were in employment in Britain, a rise of 154,000 on the quarter before. Some two-thirds of these jobs have gone to British-born workers – the record employment numbers do not simply reflect a wave of immigrants making work for themselves.